The Presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court, Uyo Judicial division, His Lordship, Hon. Justice Mahmood Namtari on 17th June 2019 ordered the government and Attorney general of Akwa Ibom state to pay former chairman Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Service Commission Obong Cornel Udoh arrears of salary and allowances from August 2015 till 13 June 2017 and severance packages within 30 days.
The court held that that the procedure for the removal of the former Mr. Udoh was done contrary with the dictates of Section 4 (a) (1) of the House of Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Law.
In summary, the Claimant was appointed as the Chairman of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Service Commission 18th June 2013 for a period of four (4) years. The Claimant worked for the Defendants until 14th September 2016 and without notice to the Claimant or any member of the Commission, the Defendants appointed a new Chairman and four other members to replace the Claimant and other members of the Commission by publications in the media.
The Claimant took out a Complaint against the defendants jointly and severally among others for A declaration that the appointment of a new Chairman into the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Service Commission to replace the Claimant as member thereof before the expiration of the tenure of the Claimant and the refusal of the Defendants to pay the salary, fringe benefit and allowances of the Claimant is contrary to the provisions of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Service Commission Law Cap. 58 Laws of Akwa Ibom State 2000 and the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Service Commission (Amendment Law) 2004.
In response, the Defendants submitted that Claimant failed and neglected to submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets and liabilities that this necessitated the nomination of new members to replace the Claimants and other members of the State House of Assembly Service Commission and stoppage of salary as required by law.
Further that the Claimant had stopped work since August 2015, and therefore not entitled to salaries beyond July 2015.
In reply, the claimant submitted that he duly completed and submitted the assets declaration forms to the Code of Conduct Bureau on 30thday of September, 2013 as one of the things the Claimant was directed to do immediately after his appointment.
That his appointment did not expire in July 2015 but on the 13th day of June 2017 and that the purported nomination and confirmation of the new Chairman and members of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Service Commission were improperly and illegally done as the tenure of the Claimant was still subsisting.
It was also the argument of the Defendants that, since the Claimant neither tendered the original copy of a written declaration of his assets and liabilities nor a certified true copy of same or any evidence of payment of the prescribed fees for the certified true copy, the Claimant did not submit his written declaration of assets and liabilities to the Code of Conduct Bureau as demanded by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The Claimant formulated for the determination whether the appointment of a new Chairman and other members of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Service Commission to replace the Claimant and other members without following due process was lawful while the tenure of the Claimant and other members was subsisting?
The presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Namtari after careful evaluation of submissions of both counsel expressed thus;
“A casual look at the facts of this case clearly shows that the procedure for the removal of the Claimant as the Chairman of the State Assembly Service Commission was not done in accordance with the dictates of Section 4 (a) (1) of the House of Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Law.
“I have no difficulty therefore in holding that the action of the Defendants are null and void. I am fortified in this regard by the several judicial authorities to the effect that where a contract of service is for a fixed term, the employee cannot be removed during the period of the term contracted, except for misconduct or where the employee dies."
The court ordered defendants to pay claimant the sum of Claimant N 8,694,876.60 being the arrears of salary and allowances due and payable to the claimant by the defendants from August 2015 till December, 2016 when the defendants stopped paying the Claimant's salary and allowances to September 2016 when the defendants appointed a new Chairman for the House of Assembly Service Commission, the sum of N6,688,365.90 salary and allowance from 14th Sept. 2016 to 13th day of June 2017 when the tenure of the claimant would have expired and sum of N4,011,615 severance package as Chairman of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Service Commission within 30 days.